If your child custody agreement no longer suits your family’s needs, you may have a right to ask the court for a child custody modification. This is the time to contact an experienced child custody modifications attorney. At Aiello & DiFalco we regularly assist parents in Nassau County, Long Island, and in New York City with child custody modifications. We will take the time to explain the process and help you file the required petition with the family court or with the divorce court, depending on which is the best option strategically. Knowing that nothing matters to you more than the well-being of your child, we will work to protect their interests and your parental rights. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.
Reasons for Child Custody Modifications
Child custody is often one of the most challenging issues to resolve when parents divorce. After an initial custody arrangement has been agreed upon, circumstances may change, and one of the parents can request a modification with the court.
The court will only agree to modify a child custody order if a judge finds (1) there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the last agreement or court order, and (2) the proposed modification is in the best interest of the child. Let’s review some of the common reasons the court will consider a child custody modification.
Physical Relocation of a Parent
Custodial agreements and orders typically limit the custodial parent’s ability to relocate with the child beyond a particular geographic area or out of state and require the other parent’s permission or a court order before doing so. The court will consider whether the relocation will benefit the child and improve their quality of life. Valid reasons to modify child custody include:
- The custodial parent’s relocation to another city or state for a new job opportunity or increased income
- Closer proximity to the custodial parent’s extended family who can assist with child care
- An educational opportunity for the custodial parent
However, a petition to modify child custody due to relocation is not guaranteed to be successful. Ultimately, the court must weigh the benefit of relocating against the impact the move would have on the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent and the child’s relationship, as well as the viability of revising the parenting time schedule as a result of the move.
One Parent Fails to Follow the Custody Terms
A child custody order is legally binding and must be followed by both parents. A parent who knowingly and deliberately fails to follow custody terms may be held in contempt of court. A child custody agreement can be breached in several ways, such as:
- The custodial parent denies the other parent’s parenting rights
- Parental alienation or similar efforts are straining the relationship
- The noncustodial parent does not return their child on time after each visit
- Either parent takes the child on long trips without consulting the other
- The custodial parent withholds the child over a child support dispute
The parent whose parental rights are being violated can request a child custody modification to change custody. The court may grant a modification if it can be proven that the breach is detrimental to the child and that a change of custody is warranted to prevent further harm to the parent-child relationship.
A Parent’s Situation Has Changed
Courts recognize that parents’ circumstances change over time which may be the basis for a custody modification. The parent requesting the modification must be able to prove that the change is substantial and will affect the child’s well-being. For example, if the custodial parent develops a drug or alcohol problem, or relapses, that might constitute a change in circumstances. On the other hand, if the noncustodial parent had an issue with substance abuse when the original order was entered and is now clean and sober, that parent can request a modification allowing them to spend more time with the child.
The Child’s Needs Have Changed
Children have different needs over time. A baby or young child will have very different needs than a teenager, and the best place for them may change throughout their lifetime. For example, one parent may live in a better school district that would offer the child better educational opportunities. Frequently, the parties may have entered into a schedule when the child was quite young and the schedule needs to be updated to reflect the child’s school schedule or the non-custodial parent’s greater involvement in the child’s life.
Changes in a child’s emotional state may also be a valid reason for a custody modification. If the child is suffering emotionally. A court may reassess the custody arrangement and determine whether the child will be better off with a modification to the parenting time or custody arrangements.
The Child Is in Danger
Neglect or child endangerment is one of the most compelling reasons for the court to grant a custody modification. If one of the parents is engaging in behavior that endangers the child, the court could remove or substantially limit that parent’s rights to physical custody. Examples include:
- Evidence of physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse
- One parent has developed or relapsed due to a substance abuse problem that places the child at risk
- Evidence that one parent has subjected the child to dangerous, inappropriate, or criminal behavior or activity
- Serious mental health concerns such as unstable or erratic behavior
If your child is in danger, you should first call the police or child protective services and then contact an attorney who can help you file a petition to modify your custody agreement and possibly an order of protection to protect your child.
How Aiello & DiFalco Can Help
If you are seeking to modify your child custody agreement in Nassau County/Long Island, it is essential to have proper legal representation. Our attorneys can help you file a motion with the court seeking to persuade the court that modifying custody is the best thing for your child. While child custody modifications can be one of the most difficult post-divorce issues to resolve, we will help you find a solution that is in your child’s best interests.
Contact Our Experienced Child Custody Attorney Today
If the child custody arrangements you made at the time of your divorce or separation require modification, you can depend on us for compassionate, effective representation and caring personal service. Contact us today to learn how we can help.